This terrific expose of organized religion and revivals exploiting the faithful masses was based on Sinclair Lewis’ novel, set in the midwest in the 20’s. Burt Lancaster was never better, winning his only Best Actor Oscar as the title character, a grinning salesman enlisted by a revival preacher, Sister Sharon (well played by Jean Simmons) to help “sell the Lord”. Her minions were in a bar, and heard a sales pitch he was giving and said “this is the kind of man we need”!
I forgot how scathing an attack this was on "the business of religion", arguing over appearance fees, how many people they can add to churches, etc.. One preacher objects, "Is filling churches the aim of religion -there were once only 13 Christians, was it a failure?" - and the greedy materialist totally misses the point, "Kee-rect! today it's a world-class enterprise, successful in every country!" This is an especially appropriate film to see after the Bush-led “Christian right” has led our country to the brink of financial disaster and collapse. It’s a primer on how the masses are duped by the media, business, and government working in collusion to take what little money we have left. Arthur Kennedy is a reporter out to expose the phoniness of the whole industry, and Shirley Jones won a supporting actress Oscar as a prostitute. Down a star for just being so pessimistic. 5 nominations, 3 Oscars (add Screenplay for Brooks to those above)
Quote: "What I great night, I get drunk, then I get saved - drunk and saved!" – a sinner
Quote2: “It’s about time you played ball on God’s team, and that team’s captain is none other than Jesus Christ himself” – Elmer Gantry
Quote3: “but the law allows them to collect money and invest it in real estate, tax-free – and who knows what they do with the money?” – Arthur Kennedy
Quote4: “Can he save people? Boy, I’ll say – standing up, laying down – he’s got a lotta ways to save you!” – Shirley Jones